Category Archives: Books

Talking About Recipes For Recovery

For those with eating disorders things like grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with others, all present huge challenges; and yet,  healthy and balanced meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life.  An important part of the recovery process is learning how to cook and “Recipes For Recovery” was created to do just that as well as raising money for BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity.  I spoke to Francesca Baker, the creator of the book, to find out more…

Hi Francesca and welcome – please introduce yourself 🙂image

Ah the question who am I? Without getting into an existential crisis of identity, I’m Francesca, and I work in advertising and journalism, and my passions are words, music, creativity and wellness. I always have a project on the go related to one of these areas – and Recipes For Recovery is one of those.

Recipes For Recovery is a book to help support people in recovery from eating disorders as well as hoping to get the message across that everything in moderation is OK and necessary in a healthy and balanced diet, and that meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life. What gave you the inspiration to start the project?

I have suffered from an eating disorder from a number of years, and I think that a huge part of recovery is learning how to love food again, and cook yourself nutritious meals. It’s important also to realise that food can be fun and meals can be social events – the focus does not always have to be on fuel, although of course that is an important lesson to accept. Often what is needed is guidance and permission, and I hope that this book helps offer that support. Conversations and experiences with therapists, professionals and those suffering and recovering from the illnesses, have taught me that having a connection with food again is a step on the path to a normal relationship with food.

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People with eating disorders don’t necessarily like or dislike food per se – they can often be food obsessed, might fear it, might want to avoid it because of weight issues etc. For some grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with other people are difficult challenges. Learning to cook is an important part of recovery as those obstacles slowly get conquered. Bearing those issues in mind, what sort of recipes are most suitable for this sort of recovery?

Many people with eating disorders might have a limited repertoire of meals or food that they feel ‘safe’ eating, and the aim of the book is to widen the options available, giving suggestions in a simple and safe format. The book provides recipe ideas that are balanced and include all the food groups – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vegetables – to ensure that the nutritional and physical aspects of recovery are addressed. It’s not rocket science, and so things like chilli, paella, salmon pasta, and fish pie are all included. Many of the recipes can be cooked for one, which is important as often people with eating disorders fear that it is not ‘worth’ cooking for only themselves. But they are worth it, health is worth it, and these recipes can help with that. I hope that it helps provide the stimulus to start new, healthy habits.

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I have recently renewed an interest in cooking from scratch and exploring herbs, vegetables, fish, cheese and cuts of meat that I previously avoided because I didn’t know how to cook or use them – I haven’t got much of a sweet tooth so savoury main meal recipes appeal to me now and I’m finding it fun. Do you enjoy cooking? Have you got a favourite recipe that has been submitted to the book?

I love cooking, and I agree that the process of learning how to use food and basic ingredients can be a fun one. A few months ago I was travelling around Australia, and carrying around tins of tuna and noodles in my bag – typical backpacker food. I stayed in a lovely eco-friendly place where visitors were allowed to pick from the garden. The lemongrass, chilli and basil I picked from the trees transformed my bland dinner to an exciting stir fry. I also love the recipe for paella that a friend donated, telling me that he picked this one as it was ‘what I saw my dad do every Sunday from June to September. Always in the same place, slow, focussed, constantly assessing the water, the salt, the rice, cooking for the family that he built and loved. Paella is a social event, a family event, an excuse to be together….and my dad made a cracking succulent excuse!’ The importance of the emotional and social aspect of a good meal resonated with me.

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The money raised from sales of the recipe book are going towards BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity. What are the aims of the charity?

BEAT provides helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups to help adults and young people in the UK beat their eating disorders. They campaign, raise awareness, organise events and offer support to change the way everyone thinks and talks about eating disorders, improve the way services and treatment are provided, and to help anyone believe that their eating disorder can be beaten. 40-50% of people make a full recovery, and BEAT are one of many resources that can help recovery be a reality.

You have gathered recipes from a variety of people and sources. What has been the most unusual dish submitted?What type of recipe was the most popular submitted?

I’ve had a great number of people submit recipes, and vegetable chilli has been a repeat submission. Which is good, because it’s tasty, and can be made in lots of different ways. A breakfast salad that includes avocado, alfafa, coconut and carob was a surprise entry, and I’m looking forward to people trying the Maltese recipe for hobz biz-zejt, as that is filled with wonderful memories for me.

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Have you plans to do more projects/ books in the future?

I’d like to develop this one to include an app – so if any developers out there fancy getting in touch that would be great?!

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I’m a total words girl, and always seek out a library when I arrive in a new place. This has been the case since I was a child, and would visit the library on a Saturday and have devoured all the books I borrowed by Monday. I love Virginia Woolf and DH Lawrence, and grew up absorbed in Enid Blyton. Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Joe Dunthorne are contemporary writers I adore. And of course, Shakespeare.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I like all sorts of styles and trends, but I tend to feel the cold, so my outfits are made up of layers, cardigans and scarves. I love a bright and beautiful pattern, and pick up scarves from charity shops that catch my eye. Every year I make the New Year’s Resolution to wear more heels, but it rarely transpires. I have a fantastic pair of very high purple suede stilettos that live on my mantel piece – they are too hard to walk in but too beautiful to be hidden away in the wardrobe!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I spend too much time on Bookish and The Literary Gift Company.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I saw this gorgeous skirt by Dawn O’Porter in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines a few months ago and fell in love with it. Pretty skirts and powerful quotes! 

Boots or Shoes? 

Perhaps boots – for their practicality. It’s definitely boots I wear the most often. I can walk, dance, skip and kick in them!

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Recipes For Recovery:

www.andsoshethinks.co.uk
http://recipesforrecovery.flavors.me/
https://twitter.com/hashtag/recipesforrecovery
https://twitter.com/andsoshethinks

Thanks for talking to us Francesca and I hope the book encourages us all to enjoy cooking, eating food and discovering new flavours.  Have you got a favourite recipe? I’d love to hear what you like cooking.

Linda x

Photo Credits:  The photo of Francesca was published with kind permission from Francesca Baker.  The food photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Richard Betts

When the sun is shining what could be better than sitting outside lapping up the glorious rays, with a glass of wine by your side (pinot grigio preferably but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at whatever flavour is offered!) and a good book.  Yes –  wine, sunshine and books come up very high on my list of passions.  Imagine my excitement at discovering a book – not just any book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”.  Scratch’n’sniff books … I can remember having a couple as a child where you could scratch the picture of a strawberry or an orange and a most delicious scent was emitted. Probably showing my age! I had a chat with the enterprising American author and winemaker Richard Betts to find out more…hi Richard, please introduce yourself 🙂image

No way. Okay, my name is Richard. My most lofty ambition is to smile and to make other people smile. I endeavor to do that by making wine and spirits easy and part of your every day life. See, I’ve got this ‘-ism’ that “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” and if I have my way you will live by it too.

Believe me… I agree with that “ism” too! I’m going to jump in straight away & talk about your book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”. I used to love the scratch & sniff books as a child ..and I’ve approached this book with as much glee! What was the inspiration behind the writing of this book?

Whelp, there is for sure no shortage of lengthy wine tomes on all subjects and I have nothing to add to that. BUT! Wine can sometimes be too stuffy and exclusive which stinks. I think the best way to engage and welcome is to knock wine off the pedestal, make it easy and make it fun and what better way to do that than with a Scratch and Sniff wine book?!

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When did you first discover the delights of wine and the realisation that you wanted to become a wine expert?

Living in Italy in the 90’s. I was totally blowing off my academic life and instead just living life – learning to speak Italian, to cook, to eat – and wine was an inseparable part of this. The table is not set until there is wine upon it and this matters.

In 2003 you passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt, being the ninth person ever to do so – congratulations! So you do know your wine! What was the hardest thing about the exam did you feel and what do you think is the stumbling block that makes it very hard to pass the exam at first attempt?

The hardest part is for sure the tasting. Service and theory are more in your control because they are studied and you either know it or don’t. Tasting is different as we are different people every day. You know, we all have good and bad days and when you get one chance at taking the test you’re not really allowed to have a bad day, right? So the key is figuring out what are the ingredients that best set you up to have a great day and then making sure you heap them on when it’s time to perform. (For me that includes exercise, loud music and a beer.)

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Tell us a bit about My Essential Wine and your “as a grocery & not a luxury” ethos.

My ethos of “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” was born out of that time when I was living in Italy and there was always wine on the table, at lunch, at dinner, without fail. It’s just a part of the whole. (Smart.) After selling my first wine project, Betts and Scholl, I wanted to start another project that really made good on my -ism/ethos and, thus, My Essential Wines. The idea is you’ve got twelve bucks in your pocket on a Tuesday and I’m your date! It’s that easy. The wines themselves (we make rosé and red) are also wines I love to drink because, after all, if you don’t drink them I have to and I’m prepared to do that so I might as well make what I like.

You are a fan of Bordeaux wine and having holidayed in that region of France for many years I, too, share your enthusiasm. What’s the origin behind the name of your Bordeaux wine, Saint Glinglin?

It too is an -ism, a French -ism for “When Pigs Fly” and it became the name of the wine when I told good friend Erin Chave that I was going to make great Bordeaux and make it cheap to which she replied…. 🙂

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You are currently touring the USA promoting your book, drinking and sharing wine. I am sure you are having a whale of a time! What do you enjoy most about being on tour? Any funny tales you can relate to us about life on tour?

Well, my girlfriend and I gave up our homes, flew to Miami, bought a car and called it home for 4 months. It was amazing – we drove all over this beautiful country and met the most amazing people. As a guy that flies so much, it was wonderful to slow down and actually take in what you’ve been flying over – I treasure the experience and hope to repeat it when we release The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All this coming fall.

What is (are) your absolute favourite wine(s)?

Any wine that tastes like a place. This is key, it’s the intellectual value of wine that can transport you around the world. It’s sometimes called terroir – a French term meant to describe everything that goes into the wine, that informs it and is specific to only that place in the world from whence it has come.

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Travelling to visit different countries and their vineyards – which place surprised you the most with its wine? which place have you got a soft spot for? which place would you love to visit and sample its wares?

Surprised, always, by Australia – there simultaneously exists a ton of tradition and a ton of innovation. It’s always better and always interesting. This, of course, makes it a favorite of mine too. I’ve also got a soft spot for the whole of France as well as Piedmont, Tuscany and Friuli in Italy. Oh wait, I have to also add Sherry in southern Spain – I have never been more amazed at a wine region and it’s wines. Very little has changed in forever and the wines are magic – for sure the best food wines on earth.

Your book is the perfect gift for a wine enthusiast! Is it available to purchase outside the USA?

Yes and I have no real idea how. I was recently passing through Vienna airport and there was a huge stack of them for sale. Which was cool 🙂

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Nice Jeans like Simon Miller or Raleigh Denim. Vans, flip flops (favorite) or boots. I have a really beautiful pair I bought 10 years ago in France that are still the most perfect pair ever. And t-shirts. Easy.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Raleigh Denim Workshop and Simon Miller are both really special. In Rome, I love Strategic Business Unit and in Paris, it’s always Merci.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Just ordered some stuff from Entree LS in Brooklyn, we’ll see how it is. Thinking Spring so always fresh sneaks too. Lots of them.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots or hi-tops – they’re just comfy like a warm hug.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and Essential Wine

www.myessentialwine.com is where we do wine things, I also make mezcal in Oaxaca,Mexico and you can check that here: www.sombraoaxaca.com AND we have something super duper top secret and very small happening in the way of a single new wine I’ve been working on for more than 10 years. Best to follow along via @yobetts on twitter/instagram/fb to catch the announcement very soon.

As the sun beams down on my part of the UK this Friday evening, I raise a glass to you Richard for chatting to us! I wish you continued success & look forward to sampling your new wines… Readers, have you got a fave wine? What “scratch & sniff” book would appeal to you? I’d love to know what you think!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Richard Betts.

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An Interview With Author Liat Hughes Joshi

Parenting – Traditional or Modern – which method is best when bringing up your offspring?  It is an age old argument amongst different generations that their methods are best.  Despite having 5 children of my own, who are currently aged 24 down to the youngest at just 8; each birth was accompanied by different sets of recommendations. Take weaning for example: with my eldest it was recommended to start weaning at 3 months …. by the time my youngest was born it was frowned upon any earlier than 6 months!  My personal opinion is to find a happy medium between the two styles that you and your offspring feel comfortable with ….and that’s why I was so excited to chat to this week’s guest on my blog, Liat Hughes Joshi, author of “New Old Fashioned Parenting” – a guide to help you find that balance between traditional and modern parenting. A big warm welcome, Liat….image

Hi! I’m a writer and journalist from London but originally from Lancashire. I specialise in writing about parenting and family life, with clients including national newspapers, parenting magazines and websites. I’ve also popped up on TV and the radio providing comments about parenting matters.

Your 3rd book on parenting, published on 12th February 2015, is the “New Old-Fashioned Parenting” – a guide to help parents find the balance between traditional and modern parenting.What inspired you to write this guide?

There were a few incidents that particularly crystallised my thoughts on just how very child-centred and over-indulgent SOME parents can be these days and the contrast with when most of today’s parents were kids in the 70s to early 90s. One time, I was in a coffee shop waiting to come out and two toddlers were playing by the door in the way. I waited patiently, not wanting to spoil their fun too soon, but then waited and waited some more. It was very obvious I wanted to leave and they were blocking my way. The parents were right next to them and definitely saw me but didn’t say “guys move out of the way for the lady” or similar. They carried on and on and there was just none of the consideration for others that surely should be there. A few days later, I was in a busy train station and whilst the children I was with were sat down happily, those from the adjacent table’s group were hurtling round getting in everyone’s way. Again, the adults they were with made no effort to get them to stop. When did we end up with such low expectations of kids’ behaviour? They can still have lots of fun but be considerate when needs be.

imageWhat are the main themes in the book?

It works on two levels, I hope. On one, more general level it’s about taking a step back and asking ourselves what’s really best for our children. Parents are bombarded with all sorts of messages about how to bring their children up nowadays and I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that more than anything we’re here to prepare them to be happy, well-functioning adults. Of course we want them to be happy along the way too, but sometimes the right thing for the long term doesn’t always make them content now. I’m definitely not suggesting making anyone unhappy for the sake of it just that sometimes as a parent you have to take a hit for the long term and do something they’d rather you didn’t. On a day-to-day basis though, there’s also lots of practical advice on everything from getting them to do more chores to preventing fussy eating, how to get the right level of involvement in their education and looking at issues of screen time and them growing up too fast.That’s the paradoxical side of modern childhood – on the one hand, we’re wrapping them up in cotton wool and not letting them have much freedom, but on the other we’re pushing them academically harder than perhaps ever and they’re growing up faster than we all did too thanks to media and commercial influences. This is one of the dilemmas I hope the book helps parents with.

Having 5 children of my own that span from the ages of 8 to 24 (!) I have encountered many idea changes on parenting. You have, like me, a 9 year old son – what parenting issue(s) do you find most frustrating when it comes to conflicting advice?

Wow you must be busy.. I’m one of four in my family and it was pretty hectic, although the age gap wasn’t so wide. I think all the child health advice is probably the most confusing because it changes all the time and then you just end up feeling guilty about something you’ve done/ fed them.

imageYou have written other parenting books – “Raising Children – The Primary Years” and “What to Buy For Your Baby” – as well as being columnist & feature writer for AOL’s parenting website (www.parentdish.co.uk). Have you always wanted to have a career in writing?

I did always love writing and it was something I wanted to do as a child but there were other ideas too. I wanted to be an interior designer at one stage and a lawyer at another. I’m also very interested in business so spent nine year as a management consultant before finally giving in to the urge to write in 2002.

You’re also a judge in the Annual Slow Toy Awards, launched at Selfridges in 2012, Harrods in 2013 and John Lewis in 2014. What toy(s) have you personally been most impressed with over the last 3 years?

This year’s big find from Slow Toys for me was this cool magnetic wooden block toy called Tegu. It’s been a pleasure to be part of it. It’s been interesting to see the awards evolve since 2012 and the entries and shortlist have got so strong – there were some brilliant toys entered this year. Outside of Slow Toys, LEGO is timeless and never fails to impress – I’m often going on about it but it’s the basic piles of bricks and people I’m into rather than prescribed models as they tend to get made and then what does a child do with them? They might play with them a bit or rebuild them once or twice but it’s much less imaginative.

imageYou are currently writing another book, due for publishing in May 2015, called “How To Unplug Your Child”. Can you tell us a bit more about that book?

It’s very simply 101 ideas to get children of all ages away from screens more. There are other kids’ activity books out there but this has the digital generation in mind and toddlers to teens, whereas most of the existing ones focus on the younger end. I’ve tried to have something to suit all kids in there too as a lot of the book’s competitors have a focus on arty and crafty activities. I have a deeply un-arty son myself so know it’s not everyone’s thing. Overall I don’t think we should fight screens altogether though as they can be brilliant in lots of ways and are part of our lives now – these are just ideas to get them away more rather than something preachy about getting them to give up gadgets altogether. It’s about sensible use rather than panicking that it’s all bad.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

My Kindle is loaded with contemporary fiction (I was really anti- e-readers at first but absolutely love it now). A favourite read of recent years was The Hundred-Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Utterly charming and very funny and I kept buying copies for people I know. (That’s one of my favourite books too, Liat)  

What was the best piece of parenting advice you ever received? And dare I say it, the worst (in respect that you followed the advice but it didn’t work out as you hoped)?

It’s a Mumsnet thing: “this too shall pass”. As in most of the stuff we stress about when they are babies and toddlers will be a short-lived problem. And believe me I did do lots of stressing when my son was a baby (why thank you colic!) The worst was simply the ‘thou shalt breastfeed no matter what’ pressure when my son was born. Of course evidence shows that it’s better wherever possible but that pressure can go too far and make you feel guilty about something that circumstances, health and the like sometimes get in the way of no matter how much you want it to work out.

A little bird told me that you are passionate about tennis – have you ever been tempted to write about tennis or do you play purely to rewind?

I don’t really understand enough about the professional game to write about the circuit and pros – I prefer to just play – but I have done a few features about tennis holidays/ resorts and used to edit the travel pages of a tennis magazine. It was not exactly hard work doing the testing of all these amazing resorts! A dream job for me in fact.

imagePersonal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am stuck in a fashion rut and this has got worse since we got a puppy this last year.. I throw on skinny jeans, a longish top and then boots before dashing down to let him out in the morning and it all needs to be suitable for walking the dog (I.e. getting covered in mud). I’m still determined not to be become a ‘frumpy dog lady’ so am trying to keep a vague element of style to it all with a bit of luxe knitwear and nice scarves at the moment. I work at home so 95% of wardrobe contents are casual but if I venture into town for a meeting, my ‘lift any outfit’ (within reason – it doesn’t magically wipe off muddy paw prints) is my Coach Borough bag which my husband kindly and generously bought me for my 40th.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I’m pretty boring – high street stores such as Gap and John Lewis (especially John Lewis, I do love it) do me fine. If I won the lottery (which would be especially lucky given I don’t actually bother playing it), I might head to Paul Smith or Nicole Fahri more but really I’m happy with high street so wouldn’t change that.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Things that get me out of this jeans/ long tops rut. I’ve got a personal styling session booked with a fashion writer colleague turned stylist called Jo Payton soon and I’m hoping she will push my boundaries! And I so need a new pair of specs. They are kind of a trademark of mine but I have had these ones too long.

Boots or Shoes?

Wellington boots for the dog walking. Otherwise heels but ones I can walk in easily as I am short so need a height boost.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your books.

My website is liathughesjoshi.co.uk and I’m on Twitter at @liathughesjoshi.
The books should be hitting bookshops with savvy buyers soon and are available on Amazon and Waterstones websites for pre-order before publication:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Old-Fashioned-Parenting-Balance-Traditional/dp/1849536724/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1407160295&sr=8-4&keywords=liat+hughes+joshi

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unplug-Your-Child-Gadgets/dp/1849537194/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420580462&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+unplug+your+child

It has been smashing chatting to you Liat and I wish you much success with your books.  So, dear readers, what aspects of parenting or parenting ideas do you find bemusing?! Do share your views, I’ll love to know…

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Liat Hughes Joshi

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An Interview With Author Linda Finlay

It was quite a coincidence that over the last couple of weeks I have read two historical novels based on the young Queen Victoria – one was a moth eared paperback I spotted at my mother-in-law’s by Jean Plaidy (made a change from the kindle & it was enjoyable); the other was a first novel by author Linda Finlay,  a historical saga published by Penguin, that I downloaded, called The Royal Lacemaker.  This novel was equally enjoyable and highly recommended – perfect for fans of Jean Plaidy, Dilly Court and Katie Flynn. So I am really chuffed to welcome to the blog this week the delightful author herself and chat about her book, lace making and of course, her views on fashion! Hi Linda!image

Hi! I’m Linda Finlay, an image consultant and novelist with an avid interest in people, what they wear and what makes them tick.

Congratulations on publishing your first novel, a historical saga called The Royal Lacemaker. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

Thank you. The past few months have been very exciting. The inspiration for The Royal Lacemaker came on a visit to Beer in Devon where I saw the sign for Ye Olde Lace Shop. Naturally I had to investigate and so my story was born.

Your novel follows the fortunes of a 17 year old orphan girl and the choices she must make when she becomes part of a secret commission to produce the Honiton lace for the wedding dress of Queen Victoria.  I hear you were taught lace making too – was the incentive to do so linked to getting a sense of reality to the story or was it something you’ve always wanted to do and now with your novel in place you was able to indulge yourself?

Research took me to All Hallows Museum in Honiton where I watched a demonstration of lace making. It looked such an intricate craft I had to try it for myself. I like to think my experience added authenticity to the story as I find it hard to believe women used to make lace in their cottages to supplement their incomes, along with the household chores and bringing up their children.

imageAs I’m somebody who cannot knit or crochet and can barely sew despite 3 years of needlework lessons at school, I really admire you! Was lace making hard to learn?

Although I love knitting, sewing is not my forte. Luckily I found a very patient teacher in Colyford, who along with her team of lovely ladies, kept my lace making on track. It really is as hard to go back and re work the lace as I indicated in The Royal Lacemaker. However, if I managed to make lace, you certainly can too!

Ha, ha … we’ll see! Swiftly changing the subject, what made you realise that you wanted to write books? Did you like story writing as a young girl?

I have always loved writing stories. Along with sport it was the only thing I was really any good at in school. Frequently I would lose myself in a story rather than tackle the other subjects I was meant to be concentrating on.

Apart from being an author, you are also an image consultant. What do you like best about both of your jobs?

I love people and helping them to make the best of themselves. It is rewarding to see a client leave my studio confident and smiling. I always try to champion my characters by making the timid grow stronger throughout my stories.

I know that this book has just been published, but have you started to think of ideas for your next novel? Would you stick to the same genre or would you try something different?

My next novel, The Girl With The Red Ribbon will be published in the Spring. It is about lunar gardening and millinery. Quite diverse subjects that are brought together by a common theme. I am now on my third novel.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite book or authors?

I love historical romance and stories that teach something of the period without being heavy handed. I find it satisfying to learn through an entertaining story. Phillippa Gregory is particularly good at this.

imageObviously living in Devon played a big part in the formation of your novel. If you could visit any place in the world to set your next novel in, which place would you love to venture to?

It would have to be the Norwegian fjords. My imagination could run riot there!

When you’re not writing or running your image consultancy, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I love walking the coastal paths and exploring little villages and bays. A story always seems to pop into my head though, so I don’t really switch off – unless I’m shopping with clients of course. Then it’s clothes, boots, shoes and accessories all the way.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love separates. Pencil skirts, polos, embellished shirts and shaggy gilets with ankle boots and opaques are this seasons must wears for me.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Wallis, Next, Very are all superb for topping up on seasonal fashions. They are always on trend with reasonable prices that don’t break the bank.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A faux fur jacket and faux leather pencil skirt are on my wish list, along with more ankle boots of course.

Boots or Shoes?

Both! They are my absolute must haves and a girl can never have too many! After all they update an outfit instantly.

Links:

amazon.co.uk/Royal Lacemaker – Linda Finlay

amazon.com/The Royal Lacemaker by Linda Finlay

Thank you very much Linda – I can’t wait to read your next novels.  After reading The Lace Maker,  I was partaking in a quiz when a question came up : “What craft uses bobbins and pillows?”  I was so pleased that I knew the answer (Lacemaking) which I wouldn’t have had a clue a month or so ago. So, there you go, not only a good feel good read but educational too! Check the book out and let me know what you thought of the book too! I’d be interested to know!

Linda x

Photos have been published with kind permission of Linda Finlay

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An Interview With Carol E Wyer

Bucket lists – have you ever made one?  A list of things you hope to see or do before you reach a certain age or before you die, perhaps?  I haven’t personally but my younger sons had preprinted bucket lists from the National Trust, I think it was, detailing a list of activities to achieve by the age of 11….including rolling down a hill, climb a tree, play pooh sticks, skim stones, etc My sons were chuffed that they had crossed off most of the things on the list.  Perhaps you’ve seen the articles on subjects such as 100 places to see before you die … a wishlist that would be nice to fill out… ; some bucket lists are a lot more challenging, thought provoking, and life changing.  I’ve been chatting to the lovely author Carol E Wyer  this week, whose 7th humorous book, Three Little Birds, was published by Safkhet Publishing on 15th August about this very subject…. a big warm welcome Carol:image

Hello! I’m Carol E. Wyer (no I won’t tell you what the E stands for) AKA Facing 50 although I am facing it from the wrong direction now. I write humorous books aimed at helping people to grow old disgracefully and hopefully make them laugh. Recently I took a crash course in stand up and now tour the UK and France with my comedy talk Smile While You Still Have Teeth – phew! Are you still reading or have I bored you yet?

Your 7th humorous novel, Three Little Birds, published by Safkhet Publishing was launched on the 15th August. Your book is based on two female best friends, one who has struggled after her daughter’s death and her divorce; the other coping with life after a riding accident left her paralysed. On New Year’s Eve, after consuming much wine, they write bucket lists that test their friendship and strengths. For the launch of this book you decided to undertake four of the featured in the book life-affirming challenges plus a bonus challenge – zipwire, belly dancing, bushtucker trial, indoor skydive and zorbing. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

imageInspiration always comes from many sources and indeed takes considerable time to be structured into a novel. There were a few reasons I wrote the book. Firstly, I am one of those irritatingly cheerful people who thinks that no matter how old you are or what life has thrown at you, you can change certain elements by being brave and having a go at different things – whether that be changing your job, taking up a hobby or, as in the case of this book, writing a ‘carpe diem’ list. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I suffered from spinal problems that meant I spent far too much time in hospital and later after an invasive procedure, had a period of time when I was paralysed myself. Fortunately it was a temporary paralysis but it made me appreciate my life more thereafter. I wrote a list out in my forties and tried to complete all the physically challenging things on it as I have osteoarthritis, and at some point I’ll be struggling again, so best to get these things in while you can. Inspiration for some of the characters came from real people, including a lady called Priscilla who writes a blog called The Wheelchair Mommy who impressed me hugely with her vivacity and positive attitude in spite of her disability. Like Mercedes in the book she is a paraplegic. Charlie Blunkett, a hospital radio presenter for Coastway Radio became the inspiration for Charlie the radio presenter although she is only the inspiration and nothing like Charlie in the book and even Bert the mischievous parrot is an online friend! It is also intended to motivate others into having a go at challenges, after all, you have no idea where they make take you. There’s a list of 100 possibilities at the end of the book.

I hear you are a bit of a daredevil, having already learnt to fly a helicopter; driven a quad bike up a mountainside; swum with dolphins; took kickboxing classes; experienced working abroad; took a crash course in comedy…. so, with the extra “launch” challenges… which challenges have you enjoyed the most?

Haha! Not really a daredevil. These are quite tame compared to some of the possibilities available. I enjoyed them all although I kept getting the quad bike stuck on raised mounds. The biggest thrill was flying. There is not really much to compare to the adrenaline rush you get when you take off for the first time flying solo in a Robinson 22.

Your career started in teaching English in an American language school in Casablanca, Morocco before moving back to the UK to teach English as a foreign language in a private school. I guess both experiences have given you a lot of inspiration when writing. What are your fondest memories of teaching?image

I loved teaching. I taught all ages from small children to grown adults. The best memory though was at the American Language School where I taught three classes of children aged 8-14. At the end of the year all the teachers and classes had to sing a popular song. I am the world’s worst at singing but hey ho! It was my job so I chose something fun. My classes sang the Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney. They spent the afternoon making frog masks and sang it perfectly. At the end they all cheered like mad and applauded me until I felt like some sort of superstar. The ambience was terrific. All the proud parents kept thanking me and the students kept hugging me. It was very special.

You have written a series of educational yet amusing books for children, and since 2010 you turned your attention to the adult market. What made you realise that you wanted to write books? What impact did teaching make to your new career path?

I have been writing short stories since those days when I was stuck on hospital wards. I started writing then about the funny side of being on a ward. I sent all the stories to my friends and family who thought they were hilarious. Eventually, I got better, finished my degree and moved abroad. Morocco was the perfect place for inspiration. I would drive home on my velosolex motorbike, avoiding donkeys and come up with stories for children, then write them when I got home. They had titles like Humphrey the Camel and the Dustbin Cats. Teaching languages clearly influenced my writing because I then moved into stories, still with amusing animal themes, that taught French to young children aged 3 upwards and even had a series of songs produced to accompany them. They got used in schools with much success. It was when I was facing 50 myself that I decided there wasn’t enough humorous material for women my age. Chick Lit was for younger women, historical romances weren’t my cup of tea and I wanted to read books that had heroines and real characters in them that had lived life. My books aren’t so much ‘they all live happy ever after’ as ‘they started off happy ever after…now what?’ I decided that I would take my brand of observational humour and weave it into books and novels aimed at women (and men) over 40.

imageLast year you did a crash course in stand-up comedy and performed your comedy talk Smile While You Still Have Teeth to audiences in Lichfield and in October you will be on main stage at the Isle of Wight Literary festival along with celebrities Alan Titchmarsh, Katie Price, Sheila Hancock and novelist Katie Fford. Did you take to performing on stage like a duck to water or do you experience nerves before stepping into the spotlight?

I am such a media whore it is untrue! I can’t get enough of standing up in front of people and making them laugh. It’s a drug. I think teaching helped though. After all, once you’ve faced a class of six foot recalcitrant teenagers and attempted to teach them grammar, anything is easy. It helps too that I can’t see very well and my hearing is failing. I have no idea who is in the front row or if they have nodded off, or indeed, if they are heckling me.

You are currently writing a series of novels and articles aimed at the ‘older’ man and woman. Can you tell us a bit more about the topics you’ll be covering?

I often write about relationships, friendships, ageing process, dealing with retirement, coping with teenagers, grandchildren, enjoying life while you can and generally laughing at the banality of it all. Does it matter if we are getting on? No! What matters is that we make the most of what we have.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I read anything and everything but I mostly enjoy thrillers, especially dark psychological thrillers with twists or something amusing like Terry Pratchett or Ben Elton. I am not keen on lengthy novels about Victorian women or war stories. I did English and French Literature at university so now and then I get an urge to go and read Camus or Proust or Chaucer. I really must get that under control.

As much as you like to attempt different challenges, is there any “challenge” or “experience” that would really freak you out or would be a definite no no?

I’d have to draw the line under those challenges that would be too demanding in a physical sense. I would not, for instance, leap out of a plane and parachute down in case I landed incorrectly. I wouldn’t want to spend another five years in hospital getting my spine stuck together again. Wingwalking would be on my list of ‘no ways’ along with anything to do with spiders.

Hospital Radio features in Three Little Birds as well as featuring in a chunk of your life when you were younger and spent 11 weeks flat on your back after undergoing spinal surgery. What songs did you request or enjoy listening to or was it the friendly banter that gave you some respite from being in pain as well as being bored? How important was it to you that in your novel you included the work of the hospital radio?

I remembering requesting Magic Fly by Space, Ma Baker by Boney M and 2-4-6-8 Motorway by Tom Robinson’s Band among others. My msic taste is as eclectic as my reading tastes. The music was important as it is with all teenagers but in truth, it was the presenters who made it all the more interesting and I listened to them all day every day. wanted people to be aware of the importance of hospital radio stations to those stuck in bed and I hope the book succeeds in doing that. I have been lucky to have been on many radio shows and lots of the BBC presenters started life in hospital radio and remember it with a deep fondness. It has given many an apprenticeship in radio and more importantly the radio stations connect those who are unwell and in hospital with life outside and keep them entertained.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Always something bright. I don’t do subtle. You’ll invariably find me in red, orange or bright blue trousers or with a bright scarf and very bright earrings. My shoes must match my outfit so today I have orange trousers and orange and red strap sandals. I wear a lot of trousers and jackets or jumpers. My favourite makes are Marc Cain and Paul Smith and I have a few pieces by both.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t do online shopping for clothes but I go to my favourite shop in Solihull called Katherine Draisey that specialises in individual outfits. A couple of Times a year I head off to Germany to Hamburg or Munich and buy Brax trousers and fashionable blouses or jumpers. They always have styles, colours and sizes that fit me.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I desperately want a pair of Christian Louboutin boots. Ever since I saw Celia Sawyer on the show Four Rooms, I have wanted a pair. They are so me!

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. Every time. I have twice as many boots as shoes. I can’t explain why but I feel much more comfortable in boots during autumn and winter than in sandals in summer. It’s probably because I have such big feet and I feel they look smaller in boots.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your novels.

BLOG http://facing50withhumour.com/
WEBSITE http://www.carolewyer.co.uk/
SAFKEHT PUBLISHING http://www.safkhetpublishing.com/authors/Carol_E_Wyer.htm
FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carol-E-Wyer/221149241263847
TWITTER https://twitter.com/carolewyer
GOOGLE PLUS https://plus.google.com/u/0/117914391843880994511/about
PINTEREST http://www.pinterest.com/carolewyer/
LINKEDIN https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=116225863&trk
GOODREADS https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5061207.Carol_E_Wyer

Thank you Carol, I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you and I wish your novel every success!  Umm, I wonder, what would be on your Bucket List? …

Linda x

Photo credits: All photos have been published with kind permission from Carol E Wyer. 

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An Interview With Richard Barnard

One of my passionate pastimes is reading – I enjoy most genres but I do like thrillers, murder mysteries and such like as well as the English literature classics, like The Great Gatsby.   I came across “Danny’s Boys, An East End Tale”, a gangland thriller based on an East London criminal gang of kids from Walthamstow in the 1980s, by author Richard Barnard – not only did it tick boxes for me genre-wise, but having been a teenager myself in that era and area I was looking forward to reading about the places I knew.  So, this week I’m pleased to welcome onto the blog the author, Richard Barnard, to chat about “Danny’s Boys”, his Walthamstow memories and past lifestyle, his life now as a published author … and about his fashion tastes too! Hi Richard….image

Hello my name is Richard Barnard, author of Danny’s Boys, An East End Tale and expert analysis in high level criminality.

Congratulations on publishing your debut gangland thriller, “Danny’s Boys, An East End Tale”, the first book in your proposed “The East End Series”. How does it feel to be a published author?

imageTo me it feels strange my clairvoyant aunt predicted my writing career when I was just a small boy and at that time I had no interest in literature or school for that matter.

Your book is based on an East London criminal gang of kids from Walthamstow and their rise to the top during the boom of the 1980s cocaine era – obviously coming from and being brought up in Waltham Forest in the same era myself there are lots of memories I can relate to in the book – but non East Enders would still enjoy the thriller too!How much of your book (and the series) relates to your own life experience?

The trilogy is a fictional story based on how I grew up. It’s no secret I was a career criminal, stealing at infant stages, then progressed on to being the principle organiser of a major cocaine importation at the turn of the Millennium. Oh,and anyone can relate to the story, I get a lot of people from outside London, places like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and even abroad praising the originality and realism of the skullduggery. It’s also nice to get an email from the ladies who appreciate a good love or sex scene. I’ve been told they’d had a few late night pillow scrunching moments, that’s keeping it mild!

imageHave you always enjoyed the written word, books and story writing as a child?

Going back to your second question, when my aunt told me I’d one day become a successful writer it saddened me because I thought, how boring. She said if my brother followed his true path he would become a movie star. I’m now grown enough to know without writers there would be no actors, movies or singers of music for that matter.

What made you realise that you wanted to write a book? What impact did meeting Jeffrey Archer whilst you were both serving time in prison make to your new career path? Did he offer any helpful hints and tips?

imageJeffery Archer, now there’s a character. I have no doubt, our brief encounter during the year 2001 was fate. The funny thing was at the time he was more intrigued about my life and mind than I was his. I couldn’t help questioning him in detail about the world’s corrupt governments, the Bush administration, Maggie Thatcher, cover ups and David Icke style conspiracy theories. Lord Archer said to me, if I were a writer my work would make for interesting reading. I do feel his statement got my mind’s literary cogs turning and ready to move through the gears. After a four month long court battle my fate was sealed, I received a 20 year sentence and needed something to occupy my time. My defending QC Stephen Solly, one of the most respected, said I was a man of remarkable intelligence. Coming from him I took that as a huge compliment. He was the junior barrister defending the high profile eighties Marijuana and hashish smuggler, Howard Marks (Mr Nice). He actually said myself and Mr Marks had similar traits, that particular observation put a smile on my face during some bleak, testing and troublesome times I have to say. After a while you get bored of other prisoners’ stories – them telling you how many they’ve killed, how much precious stones they’d heisted abroad or how many tons of cocaine they’ve shipped in from Columbia. If truth be known you get sick of hearing it! My daughter inspired me to give up smoking and I became a fitness fanatic, running half marathons around the exercise field. I began reading familiar best-selling crime novels and without being too big headed, I felt I had something to offer. I’d criticise a book, how they’d got the ending wrong, inconsistencies and regularly work out the plot. I grew up in the East End and some of the fictional character leading gangsters in stories would have got laughed off the manor. I can remember one morning waking up in my cell seriously thinking my writing career has begun. As the months went on I began making notes, then giving out chapters of Danny’s Boys to other inmates. There was no better place to have your crime novel criticised, Whitemoor Prison is Europe’s highest security prison housing the world’s top level sophisticated and most dangerous individuals. I continuously used the education department’s printer giving out a few chapters to major cocaine traffickers, armed robbers, hit men and IRA terrorists. The thing was no one had any negative pointers, I would often say, forget us being friends, I need the truth but they had nothing but praise saying they love that genre and it’s the most real they’d read. I’d often try to trick them, saying the text was written by a top author. They didn’t doubt it and most could tell it was written by a man who experienced it first hand. That was it, their words set the wheels in motion, I knew my destiny.

imageIn one of your interviews you quoted that “there is no fairytale ending in a gangster lifestyle. It just brings misery, prison and people getting killed”. Never a truer word spoken, Richard – so is that really the moral of “Danny’s Boys”?  How hard was it to turn your life around?

Linda, I’ve said it a million times, there is no fairy tale ending in that life, it ends in jail misery or death. Even the ones that stop after accumulating mass wealth, they’re never out of the woods, they still worry about someone plotting their demise. They know when you’re on top of your game, the authorities are the least of your problems. I was more worried about the desperado’s flying in from abroad, they’d done their homework and knew who was flush or making large amounts of cash at the time. If they simply took your wealth and went on their way that wouldn’t be so bad but these guys play by different rules such as torturing family members including children until they’re satisfied you’ve given and signed over all you have.

imageNow that your debut book has been published and receiving rave reviews – I’ve downloaded the book and am enjoying it myself (not finished yet) – you are busy with the second installment. When is the second book due out?

The second installment realistically will be with us by the Spring of 2015. I’ve been touched by the public’s response to Danny’s Boys but in my opinion if they think that was good the sequel will be a phenomenon. The buzz I’m getting from the characters fills me with a tremendous energy, a feeling it has already been made into a hit movie. I actually believe the epic story is happening, the vibe of the novel is that strong.

Is it harder to write a follow up book or now that the juices are flowing, are your ideas/thoughts tumbling out?

Now the East End series has begun I can’t hold myself back Linda. Having lived the life makes it effortless, I have so much original knowledge. One old gangster I left at HMP Whitemoor, never to be released once pointed out “Son, who better to write an East End gangland thriller than a boy who lived and breathed it? Go on son, get out and make it happen for yourself, just send me a copy” he laughed. He was once a well loved fence but got put into a situation and being incarcerated indefinitely was the outcome.

Apart from the East End series, are you hoping to write more books in the future? If so, would you stick to the same format or would you try a different genre?

Whilst in prison I wrote an amazing first draft story, the basis being reincarnation. God forbid, but when your body dies your spirit will enter the fetus of a female just conceived and life goes on and on and on, a continuous cycle. In another life, Linda, you could have been my father or lover and our souls continuously meet in new lives we live, that type of thing. The thing is,  I have a secret amazing addition to add to this life cycle concept I truly believe in. It’s in first draft stages at the moment but when I get it right, the right film producers will have a block-buster on their hands. I get an amazing buzz and often smile and even laugh when scenes pop into my mind and I file them. What intrigues me most is where do all the inspirational, creative thoughts and ideas come from. It often makes me feel I never chose to become a writer, I feel more like I’ve been chosen, if you can make sense of that.

On your cover of “Danny’s Boys” you have the picture of the old Walthamstow Dog Stadium, which has now sadly been pulled down although the sign remains. I have had many enjoyable nights there, both as a child and an adult! What places in E17 hold sweet memories for you?

Most sweetest memories in Walthamstow – I’d have to say the Market as a kid hustling, stealing, robbing, making money. I grew up poor and treats were few and far between in our neighbourhood. I speak for many around the world when I say “There is no better feeling than earning readies”.  I love the memories of our local Stoneydown Park, off Blackhorse, kicking football and meeting up with friends to go out on the “thief”- sorry but for me those were the sweetest times for me in our E 17. I felt cursed as a child but now realise being deprived was a blessing, it gave me the backbone and made me the man I am today. I look in the mirror each morning and feel proud.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I like smart and casual clothing, Italian and French design Armani, Replay, Chevignon, that type of stuff. I often send a pair of boots I like the style of to Thailand to have them copied in a crocodile or snakeskin, other than that a nice trendy pair of Nike or Adidas trainers will do.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Yes, I shop online for Oakley sunglasses, my favourite.

Links you would like to share so that readers of the blog can learn more about “Danny’s Boys”:

www.facebook.com/dannysboys

www.richard-barnard.com

@RichardBarnard4

Thank you Richard…so, dear readers, if you are looking for a thrilling read whilst reclining on your sunlounger this Summer, get your copy now…

Happy Reading!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  All photos have been published with kind permission of Richard Barnard.

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An Interview With Jaylen Grace

Tonight I’m really pleased to welcome onto the blog the totally lovely Jaylen Grace, an International life coach, relationship counsellor and author of children’s and inspirational books. She’s also a bit of a foodie, a cat lover and a shoe addict!

20131129-193852.jpgHi Jaylen! Congratulations on being nominated for the Greenhouse Funny Writer Prize in 2012 for your children’s book, Omzak and Porridge, the Two Faced Parrot. Where did you get inspiration from to write your children’s adventure stories?

Thank you for congratulating me on being shortlist winner of Greenhouse Funny Writer Prize 2012.  It came as a lovely surprise because I have only been writing books for children for a relatively short time (Compared to my personal development/spiritual books).

You are deeply committed to helping children’s development and your debut book, Omzak The Space Cat Warrior, was written originally as a script for children to act out the characters. I still read to my younger boys and they love to read along as the characters, in fact, all my children loved reading and stories. Did you read stories to your daughter? What books did you share? Is she an avid reader now?

20131129-194208.jpgI am indeed deeply committed to helping children’s development and have coached many  children in my lifetime.   I believe that all kids have unique talents that can be overlooked, and I strive to bring these out – whilst giving them confidence and self belief – because at the end of the day, it’s confidence and self belief that makes the difference between ordinary and ‘extra’ordinary isn’t it?  I feel like you do, that reading to our kids and getting them to read is really important.  My daughter wasn’t fond of reading books, however, when she was young.  I did read all the most loved children’s books to her and by regularly telling her which books I was reading and what made them amazing, inspiring, touching, she slowly developed a love of books.  I gave her Perfume to read when she was about 14. This was what started her off.  Now, she can rattle off titles like the Kite Runner and Shadow of the Wind etc and rarely has a book out of her hands.

At the tender age of 23 you became PA to the Rolling Stones! That must have been some experience! I would’ve been totally awestruck – so, was it fun? Were the Rolling Stones your idolsat the time? 

Yes, what an amazing period of my life that was when I worked for the Rolling Stones. Everything was SO different then and to be honest, landing that job was a stroke of luck  (right time, right place).  I wasn’t that much into the Stones at the time – preferring soul and artists like Aretha Franklyn, Cat Stevens,  Stevie Wonder, The Doobie Brothers  (hopefully some of your readers will be old enough to remember them haha!).  The amazing thing was that after the Stones came under the WEA umbrella  (Warner, Atlantic,Electra) and set up Rolling Stones Records, all the big artists of the day, used to stop by the WEA offices  (They were in New Oxford Street).  I have to say the Stones were a great band to work for.  They had their demands like all divas/divos but were very generous to me.  A funny story your readers might find of interest is that the lyrics on the back of the Sticky Fingers album were written by me because Keith couldn’t recollect where he’d put the original lyric sheets.  I’m sure some of the words I wrote down don’t exist – but hey – I also don’t think anyone would notice!

20131129-190931.jpgWhat made you realise that you were yearning to explore life coaching? What impact did travelling to India make to your new career path? 

India made a great impact on my life.  After the Stones I was head-hunted to help run Warner International Music but told my new boss I could only work for him for one year because I wanted to follow a spiritual path and have a business in this field.  The yoga/personal development/life coach centre I opened in Athens in 1990 saw this dream come true.  As far as my entrepreneurial streak, I think I’ve always had that.  In my teens, I took over a food kiosk for a (little known) football team.  I got my younger brother involved and was going to give their football fans the best home-made burgers and snacks that had ever passed their lips.  This I managed but the team had so few people turning up for the matches, I had to give it up because I was losing money – however, few have ever trodden new ground without losing money and I have accepted that as part and parcel of life – along with the fact we can build successful businesses and lose them – as happened with my centre in Athens, when a storm destroyed the building!

20131129-193914.jpgNow back in London, you still teach but you spend most of your time doing your first love, writing. I find your blogposts very inspiring and uplifting. What life coaching subjects seem to be most popular amongst your followers?

Thank you for kind compliments regarding my blog posts. They are all based on rising to life’s challenges which could be what makes them popular. We all need encouragement to keep going don’t we?

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I’m a ‘here, there and everywhere’ reader.  I’m currently reading No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Dodger by Terry Pratchett and Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella. All three are excellent by the way.

20131129-191003.jpgAre there any new children’s books planned? Are you sticking to the same format or going to be trying something different?

I am currently working on Porridge book two.  This is called Porridge Goes to Summer Camp and will be published in November 2014.

You are such a busy bee, but your love of writing shines through! I hear you are a bit of an adrenaline fan – jumping out of planes, kayaking, etc and that you like to try and learn something new each year. So, what have you learnt in 2013 and what’s the plan of action for 2014?

I have given up jumping out of aeroplanes and bungee jumping for the moment. In 2013, I learned the Argentine Tango because it’s so delicious and I wanted to bring out my inner tiger.  In 2014 I am considering running a marathon – which will be another first.

20131129-194157.jpgJaylen Grace is a pseudonym – your real name is bit of a Greek tongue twister! will you reveal it to us, pretty please?!

My name is interesting on many counts.  Firstly, I write under two names.  Jaylen Grace for spiritual and children’s books and Stella Ralfini for the more adult content, ie  my next book Three Faces of Sex, which will be published in January 2014, is in short a lovemaking manual.  I studied Tantric lovemaking in the nineties and wanted to show lovers the benefits of integrating this ‘from the heart and soul’ lovemaking method easy , contemporary ways.  And before I carry on with the question about my names, I just want to say that whilst I’m an open minded person, I feel that porn is doing a lot of harm to our children and it’s time for a major overhaul on the way we view sex.  Look out for my next blog ‘Lets teach our children about real sex.’  …. So, I was born with the name Stiliani, Evripidis, Sotiris Raouna.  My father was from a simple Greek Cypriot village and since my mother was fairly old when she had me (in her forties) – and did go on to have my brother, which wasn’t expected -my father wanted to ensure, I at least would carry forth my grandfather’s name and his name, so two of my names are actually boys names – Evripidis, Sotiris.

20131129-190951.jpgPersonal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

 And here we are onto one of my favourite subjects. Fashion and shoes.  For a woman in her sixties, I dress in an avante garde manner.  I still wear high heels (but now take a pair of  flats because my feet kill me after a few hours!) and my style is fairly unusual. Regarding online sites, I think yours is brilliant and offers something for every taste.  My favourite shop is one you won’t know because it’s in Greece.  It’s called Rococo. Similar to Armani, heaps cheaper and they’re styles are the bees knees every season.

Boots or Shoes? 

I adore shoes. I look in shoe shop windows and salivate with the desire to own most.  I used to have 200 pairs of shoes but half were only worn a couple of times.  These days I alternate between about 20 pairs and find that more than enough.  I like boots as much as I like shoes – my favourite pair look like horse riding boots.   I’ve had them for 5 years and will definitely keep wearing them until they fall apart.20131129-194146.jpg

Links you would like to share eg website/Facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you!

Thank you for suggesting I share links with your readers.  They can find out more about my work at www.jaylengrace.com and soon my new website www.stellaralfini.com will be up and running.  I personally don’t have a Facebook page but Omzak The Space Cat Warrior does…he’s reached nearly 10,000 fans which is wonderful  www.facebook.com/omzaks Anyone who would like to follow me on Twitter can find me here  @jaylengrace   @omzakcatwarrior and ( soon)  @stellaralfini

Thank you for chatting with us Jaylen – it has been a real pleasure!

Linda x

Photo Credits: All photos published with kind permission of Jaylen Grace. The illustrator of both Omzak and Porridge is Almuth Scheller.

 

 

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An Interview With Tiffany Wright

Tonight I’m really pleased to welcome onto the blog, journalist and author Tiffany Wright, who has written for some of the top fashion magazines including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Company, Elle … and has a novel out called “Somebody Else’s Shoes”… so,without further ado, welcome Tiffany:The Proposers

Hello, I’m Tiffany – journalist, author and Proposal planner (WHAT? I hear you say? Don’t worry- I’ll tell you more about that later!) So, how did I become a writer? Well, I suppose it all started when I was doing work experience for Marie Claire magazine. I was surrounded by clothes, accessories and shoes (ahh, the shoes!)and I felt like I had discovered my spiritual home. I ended up working at Elle for nearly a year, before landing a job at Company magazine where I became their Senior Writer. I  lived out my magazine days writing about relationships, interviewing celebs and spending hours in the fashion cupboard lusting over every pair of shoes that came in. I  eventually left Company and headed ‘down under’ to write for Cosmopolitan magazine in Sydney where I  became their ‘Sex and the Cosmo girl’ columnist. Ooh, that was fun!  Whilst in Sydney, I  decided to write a blog where she wore a different pair of shoes every day for a year. I  did it, and has the blisters to show for it! The blog swiftly turned into an idea for my  first novel “Somebody Else’s Shoes.”

So,spending time in Sydney, writing for Cosmopolitan mag,  and being their “Sex and the Cosmo Girl” columnist  for nearly 2 years, what city would you say is for the single woman, Sydney or London?! 

310406_2465651754962_1062301386_2787766_859163210_nDepends on the sort of men you are after!! If you’re after the sporty surfer types with freckled skin, sandy hair and muscles galore then I’d definitely head for Sydney.  However my husband would kill me if I didn’t say that the best sorts of men are from Ireland (Yup, I bagged myself a handsome irish man – how lucky am I?)

You’ve been a journalist/writer for some of the top women’s magazines in the world – Company, Grazia, Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan to name a few…is there any magazine/newspaper you would love to write a feature in that you haven’t already?
I’ve been really fortunate in that I have managed to write for most of the magazines and newspapers I really admire. I think my desire to write for certain magazines changed with age – when I started out I was desperate to work for Company (my fave magazine at the time) and then as I got older I wanted to write for the top glossies like Grazia and Marie Claire. I suppose if I had to pick one magazine that I am yet to write for then it would have to be American Marie Claire –  any excuse to head over to New York and write whilst sitting in Central Park!
Bit of a nasty one but…. which magazine(s) do you read most often?
As part of the job, I have to read every magazine out there! It’s so important as a journalist to know what is going on in the magazine world, so you’ll often find me in newsagents grabbing every possible magazine off the shelf. I am, however, a complete sucker for Celebrity gossip mags – but at the moment I get to call that “research” as my next book is set within the world of celebs and glamour. 
 
What was the inspiration behind the creation of your debut novel “Somebody Else’s Shoes”?Thillnew2
I was writing a blog whilst in Sydney where I was challenged to wear a different pair of shoes every day for a year (it’s a tough life!) Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to buy a new pair of shoes every day so I ended up borrowing friends and families. Suddenly I realised that I was getting to actually experience what it was like to walk in somebody else’s shoes for the day – and that is where the idea was born.
 
What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors? 
I’ve just been blown away by JoJo Moyes “Me Before You.” It really is one of those books that had me laughing out loud and sobbing at the same time.
Are there any new novels planned?  Are you sticking to the same format or going to be trying something different?
The current book I am writing is a real jet setter of a novel – we have characters flying across the globe to LA, Switzerland, Paris, Cannes and Whistler. It oozes glamour, expensive perfume, fur coats, designer sunnies and lots of badly-behaved men.
You are such a busy bee, but your love of writing shines through!  Tell me a bit about your Online Writing Courses…. what was the motivation behind that idea?  
I run an online course for people who would like to write for women’s magazines called “The Stiletto Bootcamp.” I decided to start running a course after receiving at least 5 emails a week from wannabe journalists asking me for tips on how to get into magazines. in the end, I decided what better way to help than share my experience with an online course! So far it has gone really well – all of my students have gone on to be published in top magazines and some have even landed full time jobs. I’m so proud of them! The course runs every month for 6 weeks. As it’s online it can be done from anywhere in the world! You can find out more about it here: http://www.tiffanywright.co.uk/courses.php
Not forgetting your Be In The Media Agency, that focuses on selling real life stories to magazines, newspapers and TV shows… have you had any memorable/unusual stories that have gone via your agency that you can tell us about? 
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Oh wow…that’s a great question. To be honest, most of the real life stories that have been published are pretty memorable – from the controversial ones (I interviewed a woman who admits she only sleeps with married men) to the heart wrenching ones (a woman whose boyfriend forced her to dig her own grave.)  I think my favourite story of all time has to be a guy who left his wife and married his dog. I kid you not.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Having worked for fashion mag (Elle) I am afraid I am hopelessly obsessed with shoes. For my wedding present my sister bought me a pair of Louboutins (BEST SISTER EVER). They hurt like hell but I wear them everywhere I go!!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I’m addicted to Net-a-Porter and ASOS.
Boots or Shoes?
Shoes. In fact, scrap that. HEELS. I can’t go anywhere without heels. They instantly make you feel more glamorous and as though you can take on the world.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you!
p.s. You know I mentioned I’m a  proposal planner too? Intrigued? Check it out: www.theproposers.co.uk

Thanks Tiffany for chatting to me tonight – I look forward to reading your new jet setting novel and I wish all your ventures every success!

Linda x

All photographs published with kind permission from Tiffany Wright.

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An Interview With Janey Rosen

This week I’m so excited to be chatting to the delightful Janey Rosen, author of The Sebastian Trilogy, the trio of books that are rapidly making headway up the best sellers lists… Hi Janey, welcome to the blog …  JaneyRosenJune13

Hi, my name is Janey Rosen and I’m the author of The Sebastian Trilogy (Secrets, Dark Bonds and Retribution).  When I’m not making up stories and telling tales, I’m mum to 4 amazing children ranging from 6 to 21 years old!  I try and write when they are asleep.  I also run a business which cares for disabled adults, which I set up in 2005 having left nursing.  Overall I’m a busy bee.

What was the inspiration behind the creation of the Sebastian Series?
It was a story which came to me last summer, during a holiday in Brittany. The seedling idea quickly blossomed and I had to write it down.  
I know that the places you’ve visited in the South West helped to shape the settings of your novels, but what about the characters themselves?  Are they based loosely on people you’ve observed through people watching? 
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Penmorrow was based on a crumbling manor house I visited in North Cornwall.  It is owned by a friend of a friend of a friend – a tenuous link which is why I got a huge buzz from sneaking around inside the amazing house, which has never been opened to the public (they would likely break their necks as many floor boards were missing!).  I loved finding the secret passage which led down to a smugglers’ tunnel.  With regard to the characters, I have often been asked on whom I based Sebastian … my husband likes to tell people that he is Sebastian … I like to tease him and say he’s Alan. My lips are sealed further than that.  There are bits of me in Elizabeth and friends who have read the books know which bits those are.  Similarly, a couple of friends recognised themselves in various chapters!
 
Have you got a favourite character?
I adore Scarlett – she is just so wicked!  I also like Ruth, Elizabeth’s BFF – nothing phases her, she is the best friend a girl could have.  I like Marcus least of all.  
 
I have still got my old English book from school where I wrote pages upon pages of stories – mostly about earthquakes & exotic countries, even though my only foray abroad at that time was a day trip to Boulogne in France! As a child did you write lots of stories with an ambition to be an author? If so, what were your stories mostly about?DarkbondscoverMarketing
 
Yes! Just like you, I scribbled story after story and recall boring my English class with regular updates on my fictional character, Ned, and his adventures.  Drawing and writing were my passion from a young age, I was not a sporty child, preferring to have my nose in a book or a pencil in my hand. Now, I love nothing more than making up stories with my daughter – our favourite are the adventures of Bowbelie and Maria, a girl and her fairy friend who lives in Oak Wood.  That mischievous fairy gets herself in trouble daily – usually I lead her astray, and my daughter finishes the story with a happy ending.
Reading is a minefield! … What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors? 
My early reads, as a teen, were the Flowers In The Attic series by Virginia Andrews.  Lately, my favourite authors are Stephen Leather (The Dan Shepherd series) and Peter James, both of whom write edge-of-your-seat thrillers and crime stories.  I also love ‘What Have I Done’ by Amanda Prowse.  I love trying work by new authors and believe in supporting indies.
 
Are there any new novels planned?  Are you sticking to the same format or going to be trying something different?
Yes! I am writing a thriller entitled ‘The Hidden Bride.’  It’s a story which has been rattling around in my head for nearly 2 years.  It’s entirely different to my ‘Sebastian’ novels.  I’m really enjoying getting inside the mind of the new protagonists – one in particular is intriguing to write as he is a hugely complex character.    
 
I belong to a book club – we are passionate about books and we do like discussing them over several glasses of wine! Do you belong to a book club? What do you think about the growing popularity of Book Clubs in the UK? 
Unfortunately not, but it’s on my ‘to do’ list!  I have a circle of friends who love books and we always suggest new books when we find a gem we love.
 
Is there a writing genre you would love to try and haven’t yet done so?
The thriller I’m writing is a new genre for me and therefore a new challenge.
Retribution Cover Marketing
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Monday to Friday I will always be found in a skirt, blouse or top and heels – the ‘boardroom’ look helps me to mentally shift from mother to business woman.  I have a weakness for dresses and own more evening dresses than I have have the opportunity to wear! Favourites are Sonia Pena and James Lakeland.
 
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Coast and Monsoon are my favourite high street shops.  I try and support small, local boutiques and am fortunate to have some great ones in the town where I live.  
 
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I have my eye on a fitted suit by Armani – I just need to work out how to sneak it into my wardrobe without my husband noticing 😉

Boots or Shoes? 
At 5’10” tall I struggle with high heels.  I’m envious of every woman who can wear Jimmy Choo or Louboutins! I own one very high pair of black heels but have yet to find the courage to wear them.  I love boots in the winter (Nine West are so comfy), and my Unze sparkly sandals as well as a black crystal pair by Sam Edelmam.

Links you would like to share:
Twitter: @JaneyRosen

Thank you Janey! I wish you continued success with your writing – I look forward to reading your thriller but in the meantime I’ll settle for a summer of good reading with Sebastian & Co…

Linda x

Photos published with kind permission from Janey Rosen

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Go Wild – An Interview With Donna Africa

This week I’m pleased to welcome to the blog, Donna Africa – London 2012 Performer, Poet, Author & Actress. Hi Donna!59786_4393221396703_1889843989_n

Howzit My Shamwaris / Warriors!
Allow me to introduce myself, I am Donna Africa,nick-named, “The Queen of Dreams” by my friends as I relocated from my homelands, Zimbabwe & South Africa, to Great Britain in 2004, to take care of my now late Mum & to finally realised my frustrated dreams of yesterday today with a little help from my friends! Best known as Donna Africa Warrior Woman as seen on British & African TV & at many a signing & charity event.  All my work showcased on my Donna Africa website  http://www.donnaafrica.co.uk/cv.aspx

You’re also a poet & an author  – where do you get your inspiration?My Publsihed Poetry Book

I started writing my Donna Africa’s “Queen of Dreams” Poetry Book, shortly after the sad passing of my much beloved, British born Mum, Joan Crawford, as I found it to be healing, therapeutic and a way for me to cope and vent out my feelings, frustrations and pent-up emotions. So proud to have finally given birth to & published my very first poetry book – after sharing my poetry works on my social network sites and receiving good response and feeling a sense of connecting with all walks of life and feeling as one! Inspired by the poetry works of the romantic British poet, John Keats, after visiting his home, Keats House and sitting under the plum tree in Hampstead Heath, London as a young girl with my British uncle Doug Crawford.  My poetry book is available in my shop on my website as well as Kindle Amazon. PS My poetry book is owned & my gift to many a well known British & Zimbabwean celebrity. Click here to connect, inspire, heal and to become one! http://www.donnaafrica.co.uk/shop.aspx

Out of modelling, writing, or acting – what is your favourite activity?BI17_EwCEAAENU0.jpg-large

My favourite pastime is sharing & caring with my friends from all over the world, via Facebook and Twitter and I must say I have become addicted to all the social networks! lol! I love dancing, dining and disco! Diva Viva Donna!

Been on any unusual or strange modelling locations? Or have you had any strange/unusual modelling experiences?

jedward 22012 was a very kind, good & memorable year for little old me at 53!
It all kicked off with me being filmed for “Britain’s Got Talent”2012 opening scene, dancing on the IPC roof top adjacent to the London Eye in my Red Top Hat, boa, corset and stockings at 53 years young and televised on ITV & labelled as a bit of a daredevil by my local newspaper! Followed by being successful at my X-Factor Audition with my poetry performance act “Asimbonanga” as Warrior Woman and going through to my LIVE auditions at Manchester where I got to meet celebs, Dermot O’Leary, Jedward, Carol Flack. Judges – Louis Walsh (gave him my poetry book) Mel B (who said she liked my boobs!) and Gary Barlow (who told me to get back on stage as I was busy flirting with Louis Walsh at the judges table). Then I received confirmation that I had been successful at my London 2012 Olympic Games audition and cast as a ceremony performer in both the opening and closing cermonies, where I got to meet  Danny Boyle and a warm hug from my celeb crush, Russell Brand. I made new firm friends for life as we had all shared this momentous ocassion & once in a lifetime experience! 
My Donna Africa Showreel 2012 http://youtu.be/RSnzBPc0YIoMy fav corset & stocking & shoes

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I have a great passion for fashion and shoes, shoes, shoes! As far as I am concerned you can never have enough of shoes! I have amassed a huge collection of shoes & boots, that they have literally taken a life of their own & have taken over my entire bedroom! My sister Lyn who is a DIY kinda gal, has kindly offered to put up shelving on my bedroom walls to showcase all my show-stopping shoes and boots! Fashionwise, I love Hollywood styled glamour and vintage and just simply love my pencil skirts, frilly blouses with darts, stockings and mad about hat, hats, hats!  My personal motto, “If you want to get ahead wear a hat on your head!”cKWPv4G_6uhk5Yn8MJNLVE1a1Cws9U3e5ASpHcSuPhY

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I am a bit of grab a great bargain kinda gal and if I sniff out the smell of a sale I am there in a heart beat! I’m not one for name dropping shops as surely, I should get paid for advertising them? lol! I don’t like to follow the pack and very much an individual and if I was to wear a label it would have to be my very own Donna Africa label! I tend to shop online just for the mere convenience of it all but prefer to buy my clothes on the High Street as I like to try them on before I buy!

What’s on your fashion/shoe wish list?My fav 50's dress

Well after my sister Lyn has put up my shelving for my shoes, I would then like to add to my collection:
Some stylish stiletto heels, thigh high leather boots, monochrome boots/shoes, and since summer is on the way, I would love a pair of sexy silver leg lace-up sandals and a pair gorgeous spanish espadrille wedges for the beach! Also seeking to find a pair of tap and ballroom dance shoes size 4?
Links you would like to share:
I hope I have inspired you to simply be YOU as YOU are all UNIQUE and ONE of a kind!353643085
If you would like to follow me, I can be found on Twitter & I follow back! https://twitter.com/DonnaAfrica
Donna Africa was interviewed live on Las Vegas KLAV 1230 AM Radio on 24 May 2013 with Sexy Roxy, Cable Guy Larry, Celeb Pee Wee Herman & Producer Tony. Discussing about her journey spanning three countries and portfolio consisting of published poetry, reality TV, modelling and acting. Catch the interview on: https://soundcloud.com/donna-africa-thompson/donna-africa-on-celeb-onset
My Fav Catsuit Costume (2)I enjoyed nattering with you Donna..thank you for joining us this week….
Linda x
Photo credits: The photos have been published with kind permission from Donna Africa
 

 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
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